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Tommaso Spinelli


Ovid and Statius: Politics and Poetics of the Thebaid’s Ovidian intertexts

Supervised by: Drs. Alice K├Ânig and Emma Buckley

This research project seeks to provide the first extensive exploration of the extent and significance of Ovidian intertexts in Statius' Thebaid. Moving beyond a scholarly consensus that has predominantly focused on Statius' debt to Virgil, this thesis aims to show that Ovid's epic plays a pivotal role in the shaping of the Thebaid's politics and in the understanding of Statius' critical engagement with both theAeneid and the socio-political context of Flavian Rome. More specifically, the thesis suggests that Statius maintains the political significance given by Ovid to his Theban saga as a critical rewriting of theAeneid's politics and further develops it into a new reflection on the fissures of the Augustan foundational myths and on their applicability to Flavian Rome. The analysis of the Thebaid's Ovidian treatment of the landscape (chapter 1), of the heroes (chapter 2) and of the gods (chapter 3) shows that in this operation literary and political reflections become inseparable. By accentuating the intertextual contrast between Ovid's and Virgil's world-views, indeed, Statius can be said not only to manipulate our understanding of the Augustan classics in order to propose his poem as the new Aeneid for Flavian Rome, but also to comment upon the most important social, political and religious issues of his time: chiefly the Flavian emperors' attempts to legitimise their newly established power under the guise of a return to Augustus' golden age.

Academic biography and research interests

2010-12 BA Classics (Distinction), La Sapienza, Rome: the experimental thesis in Latin palaeography and philology (supervised by prof. Rita Cosma) focused on the policies of the first renaissance pope Sixtus IV via the analysis, transcription and translation of an unpublished Latin manuscript written in 1476 by his personal secretary Griphus.

2013-15 MA Classics (Distinction), La Sapienza, Rome: the thesis, supervised by prof. Alessandro Schiesaro and prof. Victoria Rimell, focused on the poetics of Ovidian intertexts in Statius’ Thebaid.

Tommaso’s main fields of interest include Latin literature, literary theory, landscape studies, material culture, theology, Italian literature and digital humanities. He is especially fascinated by the politics of imperial poetry and by the interactions between Latin literary texts and their broader socio-cultural and material context. Besides tutoring classes of Latin language and literature, he is currently creating the first Online Dictionary of Latin Synonyms for the University of St. Andrews and he is organising an interdisciplinary conference on “Visualising War in Human Societies”.